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Senator Tim Johnson: Update

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South Dakota senior Senator Tim Johnson remains in an in-patient rehabilitation center in Washington, D.C. as he continues his recovery from the arteriovenous malformation that struck him late last year. Before falling ill, Johnson was already considered one of the few vulnerable Democratic Senators up for reelection in 2008, due to the demographics of his home state. Now, more than 4 months later, with his personal health improving each month, Johnson's political fate (and the fate of his important Democratic seat in the Senate) remains uncertain.

In his favor, Senator Johnson is extremely popular back home—with approval ratings frequently reaching 70 percent before being taken ill. However, South Dakota is a red state and should be able to field a strong candidate against Johnson.

Whether or not Johnson will be able to travel the state and campaign person-to-person is not yet clear. Johnson is trying to remain engaged as a Senator from his rehabilitation facility. For example, in late March 2007, Johnson approved the use of his proxy in a Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up in support of the Democratic-led emergency supplemental spending bill. But Johnson has obviously not been able to come to the Senate chamber to cast votes, including some very important (and close) votes on the Iraq war.

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Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


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Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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